We all know that to steal or to murder is wrong but how do you defend those as universal values and not just as assertions of common sense?
Peter Singer is the author of several books on non-religious ethics and is Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University and he suggests, “an intellectually coherent ethic has to be independent of religion and that’s an argument that goes right back to Socrates and Plato.”
“I would say one of the keys is putting yourself in the position of others and seeing how you would feel if this were done to you,” he continues, “of course, that is something that is in The Bible but that’s just an example of the fact that the Judeo-Christian scriptures, like other traditions, have come up with things that are pretty basic.”
Eds: Hello Nic. Welcome to the 21st century.
MAC: Is it really, I thought it was a reenactment of the feudal age.
Eds: What’s going on in the afterlife?
MAC: There’s not a lot going on for a prince: unlike your times when my writings would be modern classics.
Eds: They are, in their way. We actually coin your name to describe political machinations of dubious import.
MAC: Grazi. Though your politician’s go much further than even I envisaged.
Eds: Really. We seem to get along with them OK.
MAC: Exactly. Even in my day there was at least Papal opprobrium of such despicable, duplicitous and ruthless behaviour. Though you claim to be more developed, your ignorant revisionism leads easily to unethical times. The politicians are running roughshod over any ethics and morals in pursuit of their own and their cronies’ wealth and power. Even in my day, we had at least to appease the lumpen proletariat…
Eds: Interesting choice of words, Nic.
Eds: You did anyway. However, we have technology, war and nationalistic jingoism of sport to distract. It’s very effective.
MAC: Yes, but I would have hoped, after the rationalism and enlightenment, you would have developed better than you have. You still have Royalty, for formalism’s sake, and your art is so reductively materialistic and elitist, I can’t quite believe it. And your banks are even more powerful and despotic than even the Medici’s.
Eds: Yes, well, at least we’ve been in space.
MAC: Yes, and you’ve become lost in it as a result. You seem to have reacted badly to seeing the immense nothingness out there: you had a look and recoiled in terror and became obsessed with economics. Also, you have become afraid of thinking, in any philosophical sense. It’s rather tragic, really. Whatever did you think when you so-called voted in that woman with the worst excesses of Virtu.
Eds: We are into change.
MAC: No, you’re not. That period was the time when there was as close to democracy as you may have ever had, yet she ruled like an ancient despot. And the situation has gotten steadily worse since. There’s been a steady decline in your morals and ethics but this is the only change. Just look at the history of the Industrial Revolution; your industrial relations are akin to those now. The moral vacuum since you lost faith in yourselves – or so you thought god – is tangible in the practices of government and their conspiratorial acolytes around the globe.
Eds: It’s all based on economic necessity.
MAC: That’s what you must believe in order to make sense of, or rather to deny sense of your own lives as individuals. The art of princely control is exactly telling you a patent untruth, that some members of society are beyond reproach and others are not worthy to enjoy consideration of human dignity. The illusory nature of your reality is archaic in its principles.
Eds: We’ve got better music than your day.
MAC: Hardly, ironically you haven’t got much lute these days…
Eds: Everyone’s a smart-ass!
MAC: Exactly. Where do you think you get the term Classical music from? It’s from times like my own. Although patronised by some of the worst examples of human beings; hold on a minute, that’s certainly not unique to my time, some of the best tunes mankind has ever made were turned out.
Eds: But have you heard Pop music?
MAC: Sadly, yes. On that note I must be excused. Arrivederci.
Men are also gained over by liberality, especially such as have not the means to buy what is necessary to sustain life. However, to give aid to every poor man is far beyond the power and the advantage of any private person. For the riches of any private person are wholly inadequate to meet such a call. Again, an individual man’s resources of character are too limited for him to be able to make all men his friends. Hence providing for the poor is a duty, which falls on the State as a whole, and has regard only to the general advantage.’
Our State has failed badly